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10+ Takeaways from the May 10 School Committee Meeting

19 TAMY nominations for the TMHS Theater Company; Alphabest awarded expanded contract for 2023-24

The Tewksbury School Committee met in the TMHS Larrabee Library last night with all members present. 

After exiting executive session, the committee recognized TMHS senior Brooke Bunyan, who took second place in the state in the Voice of Democracy competition. This is a national essay contest to give students an opportunity to share what democracy means to them. This year’s themes were “What Are the Greatest Attributes of Our Democracy?” and “How Are You Inspired by America?”

VFW Post 8164 Commander Vinny Oliva and James and Mary Williams joined Bunyan, who is a six-time top-three winner of this contest. Bunyan won a $4,000 scholarship for her efforts, along with $150 from the district VFW.

Rania Elouahi, TMHS Student Council rep to the School Committee, reported that She’s the First donated $2,000 to fund women’s education in Gambia, and the International Club assisted in the town-wide cleanup last weekend, focusing on the Pines Cemetery.

The TMHS esports club won the state Rocket League Championship, and Elouahi was the first of many to congratulate the TMHS Theatre Co. on a very successful production of Beauty and the Beast.

The sports seasons are coming to a close. TMHS track did amazing on state relays — the girls team placed sixth overall, while the boys team placed second. The varsity baseball team is also doing well.

The committee approved the 2023-2024 PK-4 Elementary Student Handbook, which Superintendent Brenda Regan said will be consistent for all elementary schools. Principals Terry Gerrish and Jay Harding attended to answer questions. The handbook updates library guidelines for lost or damaged books, integrated preschool and extended day, discipline of children with 504s and health guidance on head lice. 

The committee authorized Regan to make changes as needed as long as she informs the committee. The handbook can be found in the packet starting on Page 50.

No one spoke in the citizen’s forum.

In her report, Regan shared that as of today, Mass DPH terminated the public health emergency order requiring routine use of face masks in school health offices. There are still mask guidelines for Covid cases.

The TMHS college fair was successful, with more than 70 colleges and branches of the armed forces attending. All juniors had about one hour to speak with representatives. Next year, the district will provide bags for students collecting pens and other swag.

The New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEAS&C) informed Regan that TMHS is fully accredited and praised its collection and analysis of data, the rubric and the vision of a learner. The next accreditation review is in 2025.

Regan and Assistant Superintendent Lori McDermott are doing listening sessions with students focused on belonging, engagement and instruction and homework. These interviews are helping with strategic planning.

Last Friday and Saturday was the 39th annual TMHS art and music show. It was very successful.

The Wynn drama team participated in the 2023 Mass. Educational Theater Guild Middle School Drama Festival. Five students — Blake Adams, Grace Kennedy, Kevin Daigle, Cordelia Zwirek and Jake Gigante — took home awards. The group also won a gold medal for their production of Fire Exit.

The TMHS Theater Company was nominated for 19 TAMY awards, 18 for Beauty and the Beast and one for Grand Night for Singing; see below for a full list. The ceremony is May 21.

Regan also called out the tree planting ceremony in recognition of Arbor Day as well as a wonderful jazz performance by Mr. & Mrs. Zaroulis at the Center School.

McDermott reminded everyone of the MCAS and other testing. She is working to get a sample of the new report card format to show the committee. The district is on track to launch the new Frontline absence management system on Monday, May 15. Now, staff and substitutes can use an automated system to report absences and request substitutes.

Finally, she thanked the school PACs for their efforts around teacher appreciation week.

Business Manager Dave Libby noted that if there is mosquito spraying while students are in school, the chemicals used must be noted in the integrated pest management system for safety. 

The end-of-school-year FY22 financial audit report came back with no findings, which is good news. 

The town’s Aphabest contract was set to expire in June. Libby requested bids from eight companies to provide before- and after-school care services. He received two responses to the RFP; after analyzing both, his team unanimously elected to award the contract to Alphabest, with the addition of some after-school enrichment activities in elementary schools.

The town will now get 13% of tuition payments made to Alphabest, up from 10%. For families, costs cannot rise by more than 2% per year. He expects rates to be flat year over year.

Chair Bridget Garabedian clarified that the previous Alphabest contract was through the town, but it is now through the district, and that the summer program will be the same as last year.

Member Rich Russo asked Libby about the possibility of a strike by newly unionized Tewksbury Transit drivers. Libby has no reason to expect a problem and said the town is locked into its rates. The company is doing recruitment and training over the summer and aims to have five substitute drivers on call for the fall.

In subcommittee reports:

Elementary School Building Committee: Regan said there is a set amount set aside for any punch list items. The project is coming to an end. The Carnation is told that a well-regarded expert on wood flooring has been engaged to evaluate the gym floor.

Tewksbury SEPAC: Vice-chair Kayla Biagioni-Smith said the meeting was productive. The SEPAC would like to restart formal communication with the administration. Board nominations are in and will be voted on at the next meeting.

There is a social meetup this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Kid’s Konnection Playground in Billerica. It is open to anyone who wishes to attend, and the playground is fully fenced in. There is a parent workshop on May 17 at the school on de-escalation techniques; registration is required. Finally, there is a parent engagement workshop on May 23. Contact the SEPAC at to join the mailing list or get registration links or more info on programming. The group also has a Facebook page.

Wellness Advisory Committee: Biagioni-Smith discussed additional, expanded meetings with more representation from the district as well as an expanded mental health program. Lead nurse Kelly Constantino and Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Maria Ruggerio offered great input.

Policy Sub-Committee: Garabedian says they have prioritized policies and received a list from MASC. Homework policies will be near the top of the agenda.

Back to the Grand Canyon

In old business, the committee approved the TMHS Travel Committee request to switch the February recess 2024 destination from California to Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. The Travel Committee cited low enrollment for California, and McDermott said the National Parks itinerary from last year was incredibly successful, and 15 students have already expressed interest. The cost for the six day trip will range from $3,327 to $2,917, depending on how many students enroll. That includes the flights, hotels, ground transportation, meals, insurance, and all planned activities. Watch for fundraisers to help with costs.

The School Committee 2024 Meeting Schedule was also approved, with some changes to avoid a conflict with Town Meeting on May 8, 2024, and the option to add a meeting in January. It can be found on Page 44 of the packet.

Garabedian announced subcommittee appointments.

Russo will represent the SC on the Elementary School Building Committee until it winds down, and member Katie Anderson will serve on the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Committee. Russo will continue to attend the District Security Team meetings. In addition:

Garabedian: TAG (Tewksbury Administrators Group), TTA and support staff collective bargaining;

Biagioni-Smith: TAG, nurses, and secretaries collective bargaining; SEPAC; and Wellness. 

Anderson: Custodians and secretaries collective bargaining and Policy.

Parsons: Custodians, food service and nurses collective bargaining and SEPAC.

Russo: TTA, food service and support collective bargaining and Wellness.

A table of 2023-2024 register periods and report card issue dates is available on Page 83 of the packet.

Regan was appointed to be the 2023-2024 Valley Collaborative Board representative.

In matters of interest, Parsons reported that there will be a Pride event on June 2, where the gazebo will be lit in rainbow colors. Russo thanked teachers for all they do and commended the TMHS Theatre Company for an amazing performance of Beauty and the Beast. He is looking forward to year-end events.

Anderson also thanked teachers and said her family enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, 

Biagioni-Smith echoed her colleagues and thanked the PACs for all their efforts and contributions, including funding the trees recently planted at the Center Elementary School. She also thanked PACs and volunteers for their hard work on field days, and the art teachers for the recent display.

In addition, Garabedian called out Food Services Heroes Day and said she and Biagioni-Smith attended a day on Beacon Hill for School Committee members. She thanked residents for approving district funding at Town Meeting.

Comings and goings: Sean O’Leary and Karen Baker O’Brien were appointed as shared School Attendance Officers, effective for the 2022-2023 school year. Retiring are Joy Wallace, Dewing Elementary School secretary, and Ronald Page, building custodian at the John Ryan Elementary School, both effective July 3. 

TAMY Awards Update

On Tuesday, May 9, the TMHS Theatre Company was nominated for 18 different TAMY awards for their spring musical, Beauty and the Beast, and one award nomination for their winter musical showcase, Grand Night for Singing.

The TAMYs are the Massachusetts high school version of the TONY awards, where schools are judged based on their musicals. The TAMY award ceremony will be May 21 in Gardner, Mass., at Mount Wachusett Community College / Theatre at the Mount

Our nominations:
1) Best Overall Production ( Beauty and the Beast )
2) Sarah Downing – Best Performance in a Leading Role (Belle)
3) James Cozzo- Best Performance in a Supporting Role (Gaston)
4) Brooke Bunyan- Best Performance in a Supporting Role (Cogsworth)
5) Greg Mercado- Best Performance in a Supporting Role (Lumiere) 
6) Emma Pelland- Best Performance in a Supporting Role ( Mrs. Potts)
7) Jillian Waugh- Best Performance in a Featured Role (Babette)
8)  Best Chorus
9) Best Dance Ensemble
10) Best Production Number ( Be Our Guest)
11) Best Stage Crew
12) Technical Excellence in Lighting
13) Technical Excellence in Sound
14) Best Costumes/Hair/Makeup
15) Best Visual Excellence 
16) Best House Experience
17) Best Featured Ensemble (Maeve Knyff, Elena Pejic, Karlla Silva- the Silly Girls)
18) Not Your Average Chorus Member (Beauty and the Beast) Alex Naghibi
19) Not Your Average Chorus Member (Grand Night for Singing) – Zachary Sullivan

Thank you to Jeannette Waugh for this list.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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